By Jacqueline Runice

Scientists recently found an exoplanet that’s the best candidate for extraterrestrial life so far. Nice but you’re about to discover a menu of tequila drinks that will transport you from Acapulco to Zihuatanejo and yeah, maybe Mars. Restaurants and watering holes that have their way with tequila beyond the Margarita are to be lauded. Try a martini, a blended number, a cocktail on the rocks or even just a straight shot because tequila can be smoky, smooth, creamy and now there is even a rosé flavored tequila. Made for Cinco de Mayo and a hat dance through summer and beyond, the liquor made from the forbidding blue agave plant makes much more than Margaritas as you’ll note from our short list of where to get dynamite tequila based drinks.

La Mez Agave Lounge
108 W. Kinzie St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 329-9555
www.mercaditorestaurants.com/la-mez

The downstairs lounge at Mercadito Chicago, La Mez features more than 80 rotating Mezcals and therefore muchas bebidas con tequila. Tequila is the specialty of the house at La Mez, so treat your lips and neurons to the Smokey Pablo or Big Nose Goes to Mexico. The space is intimate, Latin inspired plates are small but the tequila flavor is muy grande throughout the roster of agave based drinks.

Barrio
65 West Kinzie St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 940-9900
www.barriochicago.com
Think you’re not a fan of tequila? Enter Sophia the Sophisticate, a blended cocktail that not only looks appealing but is one of the top sellers at Mexican restaurant, Barrio. The drink includes Patron Reposado tequila and is mixed with guava, strawberry and a citrus lime flavor. Although the drink is on the sweeter side, the rim of the cocktail is garnished with a chili-lime sea salt for a surprising juxtaposition of flavors when reaching your lips and tongue. It’s refreshing, flavorful and pretty. The shakers here also offer a Barrio Mula with Don Julio blanco, ginger and Jarritos mandarin; a Hot Mezz with Sombra mezcal, watermelon, jalapeño, lime and sage; and a magical elixir called Rhythm is a Dancer made from barrel select Casamigos Reposado, pineapple, lemon, thai vanilla and mint.
Federales
180 N. Morgan St.
Chicago, IL 60607
(773) 831-9696
www.federaleschicago.com

Go right ahead and order anything on Federales’ Margarita list which includes variations like spicy watermelon, mezcal, mango, strawberry, tiki-rita and the Cadillac as well as frozen head bangers like an apricot mezcal. Adventurers will go for The Mexican Bulldogm a fun libation featuring a frozen Margarita with an upside-down Coronita, served in a skull glass. Federales also offers the Pinche Paloma, a standout large-format 100-ounce tequila cocktail served in a cowboy hat. If it’s pure flavor as opposed to size that counts for you, there are also ice glass shots of silver, reposado and añejo tequilas.

Related: Neighborhood Guide: River North

 

Frontera Grill
445 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 661-1434
www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/frontera-grill

 

Anytime is a good time to revisit the fabulous Frontera Grill. Completely complementing Rick Bayless’ astonishing Mexican food, the shakers and stirrers at the bar can juice incredible flavor from simple but top notch ingredients. The Topolo Margarita pours Milagro reposado with Torres orange and housemade limonada – shaken tableside. The Champagne Margarita is a winning combo of  Milagro reposado, Torres orange and fresh lime sparked with Taittinger La Francaise Champagne and a Fresh Grapefruit Paloma combines Milagro blanco tequila, fresh grapefruit, Mexican Squirt, lime and perky Tajín. Maravillosas!

 

Taco Joint
520 N. Michigan Ave. – 4th floor
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 337-8226
www.tacojoint.com
In River North, Lincoln Park and just opened at The Shops at North Bridge, Taco Joint offers regional Mexican street food made from all natural slow-cooked meats. They hand-press tortillas and salsas are made on the premises. Tequila cocktails are not neglected but are squeezed, pressed, muddled and handmade daily. The vibrant atmosphere is great for groups (thirsty Thursdays offers strawberry sangria punch bottles and Taco Joint Margarita bottles for $25) and date night (Hump Day Hangout offers a bottle of Margaritas and six tacos for $40). This season, try Negra Modelo beer or strawberry sangria layered over a frozen Taco Joint Margarita. Ole!

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